Napster: Unwitting Perveyor of Free Music, DRM Notwithstanding

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‘When Napster launched its new subscription Napster-To-Go service two weeks ago, they touted it as a low-cost way to access thousands of songs without having to buy them. For $14.95, customers can copy all the tracks they want from Napster’s catalog to digital music players. There’s even a 14-day free trial. Of course, when the subscription expires so does the music [renting music? What a horrid idea!].

However, in a flashback to the heyday of the original Napster in the late 1990s, a rediscovery by a few users of an old Winamp trick has resulted in subscribers being able to download any number of tracks, which are then no longer tied to the subscriber’s PC and digital music players. Using only a slightly-tweaked version of Winamp, it’s possible to convert the DRMed WMA files used by the music service into much larger WAV files. Those can then either be burned to CDs, or converted to another lossy format.

Upon being contacted for comment, a Napster spokesperson noted that the company has long been aware of the potential to bypass the subscription system, and claimed that the hack does not threaten their subscription model… However, Napster is counting on free 14-day trials to Napster-To-Go as a way to sell people on the idea that rented music is a Good Thing so they can challenge Apple’s lead in the online music scene.’

Source: Eric Bangeman, Ars Technica